The Great Australian Novel? Chapter 2

As I observed late last year,

Some of youse Pubsters may have noticed that I haven’t published more of the late Malcolm B. Duncan’s “Chronicles of Nadir” recently. The change of PM in September has everything to do with that.

The lawyers have a term for it: ex abundante cautela, and given a certain person’s proclivities, that seems sage advice.

Instead, I offer something from a manuscript on which Mr Duncan was working in the months before his death.

Not that I would suggest Mr Duncan was anything other than original, but if any Pubster can suggest a possible source of his inspiration they might find themselves with a Golden Echidna.

The Golden Echidna is still waiting its rightful owner.

Meanwhile, read on.


Waltzing Matilda

I put my mug of tea down on the table and picked up my pen to return to the Sudoku.

She entered the room.

Although She had fallen on hard times largely as a result of the depredations of those in my profession, I could never look at her, ageing although she now was, without my heart heaving into my mouth. She was eternally beautiful in that Sunset Boulevarde sort of way and She had established the most extraordinary relationship with Him. He had even written a play especially for Her in which She had starred to great critical acclaim and enough public arts funding to provide a small squadron of decent jet fighters rather than the crock of shit Brendan Nelson had ordered.

She threw up, narrowly missing the cat. I wondered whether there might be any utility in acquiring a small dog like the homosexuals next door had but then remembered that the cat would just eat it anyway.

She eructated a burp and said, “Better get a cloth.” She disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of disinfectant and a rather cheap superwipe I had bought from Aldi.

As she was cleaning up the mess, He said again, “Bugger, the Canaries”. “Oh,” she said groggily, “Claude hasn’t been at them again, has he?”

At the mention of his name, the cat opened a lazy eye – strange thing, astigmatism in a cat – confuses the hell out of canaries – noticed that there was nothing immediately edible and settled down to sleep again. Well, I say ‘settled’; what he actually did was close the eye. Within moments, he was snoring.

“Why does that bloody cat snore?” He asked.

“What’s that got to do with canaries?” She responded.

I could see it was going to be another one of those days.

“Canaries – sinking,” He said.

“You what?” she said flashing those eyes and dislodging just a small portion of a well-formed breast from her house gown. A tinge of areola was evident.

It was at moments like these that I became paralysed by the panorama of the moment – being a bottle baby, I wasn’t used to breasts. Well, not until I got the first set of my own but thereby hangs another tale. I’ll never forget that lass, though.

“Canary Islands – sinking,” He said.

“I think I should clean my teeth,” She said, and headed towards the bathroom.

What does one do? Confronted by a now raddled, broke, beautiful actress who parties too much, yearning for love, deep in regret and knowing that one can do nothing about it – well, one just soldiers on I suppose, as soldiers do.

Of course, He never soldiered on: He had been in the RAF. Rum do that must have been. She, on the other hand had been a Vietnam protester. Probably a good thing because if She had been in the RAAF she would probably have been a lesbian. Not that one has anything against lesbians – I’m one myself – but for Her, and the rest of humanity, it would be a sad waste.

She returned beaming Colgate. Thank god for agents. If I were writing this on my own, I would have missed all the product placements.

Claude stretched and went to his Snappy Tom bowl filled with Whiskers biscuits as it nestled quietly by its companion replete with Evian water. (Another $10K, the agent tells me.)

Really though, plus ça change. Here’s Luck is full of product names and I bet Lennie never got a brass razoo out of it.

I wonder what it is about journalists, actresses and the bottle. They seem to have a tripartite attraction.

He was having none of it. “I said the Canaries are buggered. Nothing to do with the fucking cat. Canary islands. About to sink.”

“Oh, global warming,” She said, leaning over my shoulder and looking at the paper. “You shit, you’ve done the Sudoku.”

Restraining the urge to say something like well, at least I’m sober enough to do it you raddled old cow, I smiled in that way that I first learnt when I started smoking Sobranies and said, “The whiteout is in the top drawer of the desk.”

Claude returned and jumped up on my lap. Immediately I was covered in 10 cm of thick, impervious fur.

“Forget the fucking Sudoku, woman: this is important,” He said.

“Well, excuse ME,” She said, and burped again.

I’d once seen Olivier burp, and She had it down pat. There are so few Australian icons of the theatre and no-one, not even He, has ever been able to produce what could be called the Great Australian Novel. Perhaps it is just that we are not Great in that sense. I had, however, become slightly confused by the exchange between them. As I steadied my nerves by scratching Claude’s head idly, my thoughts turned to Browning and what a truly terrible poet he was. Not as bad as Gwen Harwood of course, but we need not plumb those depths.

“Anyway,” She said in that irresistibly vacuous way that actresses have, “Global warming might be a good thing. The Canaries could be a reef. Greenland would be worth visiting again.”

My thoughts naturally wandered into a reverie about democracy, the Aelthing and the Witenagemot.

“Reef? Who wants a new reef? Got a reef. Just want to keep it,” He replied.

“Whatever,” She said, and drifted towards the toaster. Claude raised his head slightly, thought better of it, and settled down to sleep once more. It was moments like these that I felt completely trapped.

Sanderus Antiquariaat


393 thoughts on “The Great Australian Novel? Chapter 2

  1. An update on HI’s travails before I dive back down into the sea of paper that seems to be my lot lately.

    We received an extension of our “date with destiny” after pointing out that one of the appointed workplace investigators was a mate of HI’s boss. Even the HR honcho realized “that dog don’t hunt”, and so another scalp was collected for our by now rather crowded belt. We are running out of room for the dessicated, swinging heads of senior executives that have girt our loins during this process. By my count it’s now up to 8 recusals over the period.

    As yet, no replacement has been found, and no reconvened investigation has been announced. If it’s not done today we will be applying for the whole thing to be bound over for another week.

    This suspension thing is almost fun. We get paid for doing nothing while we prepare our case. Management’s case is woeful. It is a mish-mash of random papers and disorganized waffle. The heads of allegation do not mention key aspects of a dismissal offence. The policy guideline documents they have provided for our edification are different from the ones they have presented so far, which is as damning an admission of incompetence in the past as I can think of. That we have suggested the policy documents they are now relying on were always the correct ones – many, many times – but were told to “Eff off… we’re the experts on sacking staff!” gives us some comfort that we know what we are doing more than they do. Almost every objection we have made over the long time this saga has been going on has been accepted by management, grudgingly but inevitably.

    Of course this leads to the question of just who should be doing the pointing out? There is something rotten with a system where the employee has to tell management how to do their job… and management keeps agreeing they’ve been doing it wrongly, but without any comeback or penalty for them. They forgive themselves with alacrity. They never forgive us.

    If the employee does not know about the rules, then there are no rules: injustice prevails. It should be the other way around. The bosses should know their job. We shouldn’t have to beg them to do it. How many other poor sods have fallen victim to these thugs and bullies? How many women have run crying from offices because they just can’t take it anymore? How many other now unemployed people smile a wry smile as they pack their personal effects prior to being frog-marched out of the building, surrounded by OH&S posters stuck to the wall that swear by God there will be no bullying and no victimization in this workplace? It is a sick joke.

    I said suspension was almost fun. Balancing the time off, there is the onerous task of having to spend five whole days just bashing their evidence into some kind of form where the various threads, lies and obfuscations can be at least read – and compared – alongside each other. We are embarrassed by almost too much evidence of incompetence. It’s hard to pick the best bits so that we can show them up for the fools they are.

    Then there were the defamatory statements made by the Big Boss – the boss of HI’s boss – in a letter she wrote to us numbering (she thought) our days. This was the cover letter for the whole process. We were given the names of all kinds of junior officers to talk to about suspension, about counselling, about the process etc. It was a classic delegation – or dilution – of authority. But it was the Big Boss who signed the letter. The defamatory statements were thus hers.

    So we wrote back to her telling her we’d hold her accountable for them. No palming-off of responsibility permitted. “You said it, luv, you answer for it.” We received a quick email back, telling us a reply would be coming shortly. That was a week ago. “Shit, what kind of mess have those idiots in HR gotten me into this time?” she must be asking herself. These HR flunkies are not very professional at their jobs. The old days of thuggery are over. They have, in HI and myself, adversaries who are prepared to play the game even harder – and so far better – than they do. We have fun imagining them squirm as we point out the simple truth: if you sign it, you own it. If you show what you wrote to someone, it’s defamation. Silly woman. They told her everything would be fine. It isn’t. Nasty as defamation is, though, it’s just a bit of side-play to this issue.

    HI’s boss is, in the opinion of some professional people we know, certifiable. She has become so consumed by hatred that she has made a fool of herself, her own bosses, her colleagues and the organization. She has cost them literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuing this pathetic quest to blame a staffer – my lady love – for her own problems. Surely they must realize what this vendetta has cost them? Surely their minds are now turning to just who might be the real problem here?

    We have heard that the workplace is in chaos since the suspension. Things that should be done are not getting done. Things that should never be done are being done, and then undone. New arrivals on staff don’t know what’s going on, where they should store their papers, whether they have IT logons assigned yet, or even who’s in charge. They have no sense of place. Every corridor is a new adventure. There is no anchor, no-one to go to when they have a question. HI isn’t there to run the place, to take the day-to-day miseries away from the “Executive Team”. They have to do it all for themselves for a change.

    They’re finding out just what HI did for them: she made their lives easy. While they were obsessing about minor typos and misunderstandings- the normal run of office life, in a normal office – HI was making sure they were spared from the routine run of personal contact with actual people that makes a busy and complicated workplace tick. They were free to write their dozens emails to each other, free to hold their meaningless meetings, and to meet their confected performance KPIs without having to bother with the real world of dealing with the huddled masses under them. Now they’re finding out just what makes a place run well: it isn’t sending each other reams of memos. It’s people. And if nothing else in this world, HI is fantastic with people. They do what she asks them to do because they trust her, not because they fear her.

    I’m still not optimistic of a good result for us, There’s too much invested in getting rid of HI now for them to be able to give up and surrender. The entire organization’s reputation is at stake. Faces need to be saved. There are too many bodies buried, and too much rubbish swept under the carpet. If we win, this will all come out and it will be ugly. So we believe the stitch-up is still in full swing. But one thing I can assure Pubsters is that we’ll give it a good go.

    Now, back to work for me. Thanks for reading.

    • All the in-situ place-mats for an Alice in Wonderland management capability…give them rope and they will surely hang themselves.

    • I knew the place would fall apart without HI.

      Keep giving it all you’ve got, both of you. there are a few more dessicated swinging heads still to collect.

  2. Which option: lie or deny?

    The operational commander of Australian Border Force will face questions from the Senate on Friday on whether the Australian government paid Indonesian people smugglers more than $30,000 to turn their boat around.

    Major General Andrew Bottrell, the ABF’s operational head, and the secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Michael Pezzullo, are slated to appear before a Senate inquiry into the alleged payments to people smugglers.

  3. Interesting , that execution of the arse-hole “media mogul” in the “Sherlock” episode last night..Of course we all know to whom it was referring, and I do wonder how Murdoch has lasted this long, after all he is nothing but a nuisance to many govt’s..and we all know how “efficient” a covert group like the KGB. or Mossad is in “cautasising” a problem.
    So he must be supplying someone with useful information…

  4. What BB. describes above I haver seen happen on building sites, where a super competent foreman will, out of necesity, organise stock, site management, subbie timetabling and clean-ups all from the construction site “floor”…until….until someone in upper management starts to wake up that THEY are looking pretty useless because that’s what they are and will interfere and demote said competent foreman back to “his place”..and proceed to turn the job into a “bottom of the harbour” balls-up!

    There are two types of people in this world…: Those who can take “raw materials” (be it animal, vegetable or mineral) and turn them into a functional working product..and there are those who will take a functional working product and turn it to shit!

  5. jaycee423

    Murdoch has been an “asset” for the likes of the KGB now FSB. His influence in the Anglo-Saxon world has been poisonous and in the long run quite detrimental to the countries he infests. Fox Newsification of the US may well do the place in.

    • My son has been doing battle with that system. Ask him about the problems with it and you are in for an hour or two of ranting.

      The biggest problem isn’t the alleged failure to ‘implement the system properly’, it’s just they (meaning the previous NSW Labor government) chose an unsuitable system that does not have anywhere near the capacity to do all the things they want to load onto it. No matter what they do it’s never going to work in the way they want.

    • They certainly do. The implementations are usually hijacked by Finance and IT departments who are both anal and notoriously ignorant of operational processes.

  6. I missed the Turnbull presssers. It sounds like i did not miss much. That guy goes on and on and on, saying nothing. He is a boring speaker. He uses Abbott’s three word slogans, but transforms them into 300 words.


    It’s a hard thing to say but Abbott was right to voice his support for a bid by Helen Clark

    from the position description:

    The position of Secretary-General is one of great importance that requires the highest standards
    of efficiency, competence and integrity
    , and a firm commitment to the purposes and principles of
    the Charter of the United Nations. We invite candidates to be presented with proven leadership
    and managerial abilities
    , extensive experience in international relations, and strong diplomatic,
    communication and multilingual skills.

    does this sound like Rudd?

  8. In Turnbull’s waffling on the ABC in QT yesterday he said this –

    Mr TURNBULL: We would do that by using a mix of technologies, including using fibre to the node, as has been used in a number of other countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and others. The debate really focused in large part on these competing technologies. In my view—I was very public about this—the ABC failed in its coverage of the issue because it failed to use its rather extensive international resources to at least go and interview people at British Telecom or Deutsche Telekom or Swisscom and test whether the arguments I was putting as the shadow minister for communications were correct.

    Turnbull conveniently forgot to mention France Telecom, which is rolling out FTTH across France, and Spain’s Telefonica (now ‘Orange’) which is doing the same thing. Turnbull had investments in both companies while he was in opposition, he flogged off those investments when he became Minister for Communications, or just before. He thought it was OK to make money from overseas companies rolling out FTTH but did not want Australians to have the same thing. It’s all about money with Turnbull, ethics never some into the equation at all.

  9. I see channel 7 is dragging up the Anita Cobby murder, for viewer bait. I think the family should be left alone. If people want information on it, they can look it up themselves.

    The 50th anniversary abduction of three Beaumont children in Adelaide on Australia Day has merit for a TV special as it may provoke someone to speak up about it. But the Cobby murder is over, and the murderers are in prison. The show is just using it for TV click-bait.

  10. a good read, explains a lot. Not sure if paywalled, try opening from inside the tweet, google it, whatever, but just read it'have-not-seen-leaked-cabinet-document'/7142714

    • Chenoweth’s article is fascinating (and opens easily from the link in the tweet).

      The Rum Corps is alive and well in Sydney Town.

    • Pell is 74 – that’s not exactly fragile old age

      Surely the Vatican could charter an aircraft with whatever medical support is needed on board and fly the old bastard back to face the music.

      Or the RC can just tolerate the ‘technical issues’ and do the whole thing by video link, or even Skype. If this drags on much longer, and Pell’s health really is as fragile as claimed, he could be dead before he gives his evidence.

      Just one thing – there is something that could show the claims about Pell’s health are true.

      There have been some photos circulated on Twitter by one particular person which are supposed to be recent. They show Pell at a dinner (a much younger Pell with much less grey hair than he has now) and Pell allegedly out for a walk very recently. In the ‘walk’ photos we can see how much Pell has aged since going to Rome, but they are old photos, taken over a year ago, file photos dragged out to illustrate media stories. There don’t seem to be any recent photos of Pell at all.

      So – he really might be seriously ill, it could well be that time is of the essence. Justice McClellan should stop faffing around and just go for the video link and get it done with, before the old bastard croaks. Or does someone want to delay proceedings until Pell dies and take his testimony to the grave?

  11. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says neither he nor his Immigration Minister have seen a leaked Government document which outlines plans for sweeping changes to Australia’s humanitarian resettlement program

    Yeah, sure, OK. If you believe that then please give my regards to your friends Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus next time you have afternoon tea with them.

  12. That Chenoweth piece –

    I’d take it all more seriously if Mr Chenoweth was not so firmly supporting Nick Greiner. Greiner deserved to be booted out of politics. His government did on-going damage to NSW. We are still paying the price.

    Margaret Cuneen sounds a real piece of work. She should retire gracefully and take the advice of the founder of her ‘staunch Catholic’ faith – stop the hating.

    And those poor rich people, losing their investments in dodgy mining leases – one’s heart bleeds for them.

    As for ICAC gaining confidence and taking a new interest in politicians in 2012 – has Chenoweth forgotten that there was a change of government in 2011 and the whole purpose of ICAC then became ‘get Labor’? That ICAC also caught so many Coalition politicians in its net is an indication of its worth. You can’t make accusations of bias because your own side, as well as the ‘enemy’, was found to be corrupt. Cuneen wants it killed because it upset her pals. Diddums!

    And why was the loss of Fatty O’Barrell an ‘unqualified disaster’ for ICAC?

    Some might say the Rum Corps is still running NSW, but to my mind it’s not the underlings like the ordinary troopers of the corp, it’s the nobs, the toffs, the modern-day Major George Johnstons and John MacArthurs who are still running the place and doing that for their own advantage. Just look at the way James Packer dictates to the NSW government over the growth (or not) of his gambling empire as one example, although there is so much more you could write a book on it all. One of those nobs, one of the leaders of the pack is now PM.

    You could go further. Bligh lost a battle between private entrepreneurs and government for the control of the colony. Governor Macquarie eventually took control, booted out all the MacArthur appointments, saw to it that Bligh received his promotion to rear Admiral and took the colony on to better things. There’s a comparison there somewhere between Bligh and Macquarie on one side, Johnston and MacArthur on the other, and today’s ICAC versus Cuneen and her upper-crust supporters.

  13. A good move

    A campaign will soon kick off to convince Queenslanders to allow the state’s politicians to sit for an extra year between elections.

    Queensland currently has variable three-year terms, meaning the government of the day is able to set the election date to their advantage.

    Both the government and opposition are pushing for fixed four-year parliamentary terms to bring Queensland in line with every other state except Tasmania, which has four-year non-fixed terms.

  14. A directive from the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, that the information be covered by public interest immunity meant that neither Pezzullo nor Bottrell would answer any any of the numerous questions put by senators relating to the alleged payments.

    “We are neither confirming nor denying it. We’re not commenting on it,” Pezzullo said. “We have no comment on that. At all.”

    The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the revelation that 23 return operations had been conducted proved people were still making the journey to Australia by boat.

    We are supposed to take the words of proved liars?

    • Border force officials have confirmed that the agency has turned back 23 vessels since Operation Sovereign Borders began, but they decline to say whether immigration officials paid people smugglers to reroute vessels

      To me that’s all the proof I need to convince me large amounts of money were handed over.

      And the whole thing is proof that ‘we stopped the boats’ is just one huge on-going lie.

    • Someone has to ask the bleeding obvious –

      How many people have drowned at sea after their boats were turned back? We will never know, but it does make a mockery of the ‘we are saving people blah blah blah’ rubbish.


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